Meet the new real estate customer

Originally published May 17, 2006.

This blog is ostensibly about the Web 2.0 revolution and the intersection of the Internet and real estate. But the reality is that technology is ultimately just another tool to conduct business more efficiently. This industry has been and will always be about the people. So that being said, who are the people that are going to be responsible for the future of real estate?

Meet the new real estate customer.

Ten years ago they were skateboarding, but now they’re driving minivans.

You’ve probably heard of them. Dubbed Generation X, because they grew up behind the baby boomers. But as more and more of their parents’ generation move towards retirement, Generation X is finally moving into prime time. Loosely defined, Generation Xers were born between 1964 and 1984, putting their numbers these days at roughly 77 million adult Americans.

Today, they’re first-time (even second-time) home buyers, they’re new parents, they’re confident consumers and they’re an extremely hard market to talk to. So what are some characteristics you need to know about Gen X if you’re going to reach out to them?

Tech savvy – They’ve grown up with computers and witnessed first hand the rapid development of the PC. They understand technology better than their parents and even their younger siblings. They’ve embraced the Internet and have become the de facto tech counsels for others in their lives.

Independent – Many Gen Xers were raised with little or no adult supervision as their parents struggled with two jobs. As a result they are fiercely self-sufficient and resistant to outside influence and actively seek out information for themselves.

A combination of these first two factors makes them the most likely age group to go online (87%), shop online (69%), make travel reservations and bank online (72% and 50% respectively). [Pew Internet & American Life Project]

These are the folks that are also going to be searching for their next home online.

Blunt – Another of Gen X’s traits is that they are characteristically straightforward and have little patience for deception and doubletalk. They aren’t shy about sharing their opinions of you, your company or your brand in a variety of forums either.

Skeptical – In addition to a quickly evolving technology landscape, Gen X bore witness to an equally rapid change in the media landscape. They’ve been bombarded with marketing messages since they were young and have evolved sophisticated BS radars in response.

Nostalgic – Life for many Gen Xers has become more complicated; with career demands, young families and other responsibilities stacking up daily. Many long for the simpler days of their youth and find comfort in memories of the past. This is particularly evidenced by the rise of 80s music radio stations and the popularity of remakes of old television programs such as Battlestar Galactica.

Financially Sound – Consumption has been a way of life for many Gen Xers. They’ve had easy access to credit since they entered adulthood. They’ve heard the warnings about Social Security. They no longer expect a free ride in the marketplace or from the government. Many of them have developed sophisticated investment strategies from an early age.

Generation X presents some uniquely difficult challenges for marketers. As real estate marketers therefore, how will you be targeting your efforts to these future real estate customers?

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